we are the dead
[Scroll to the end to see the pictures (the post is going to be updated as I am releasing each image)]
Abour a year ago, I decided to participate in the 2019 Contrast Photography Festival of Thessaloniki, titled “2084”, which aims to investigate the various interpretations of the prophetic book “1984” by George Orwell.
When I saw the open call for submissions to the festival, I was immediately drawn to it because of its theme. “1984” is one of my all time favorite books and undoubtedly a literary masterpiece.
Right away I started researching ideas for a brand new photo series based on the festival’s theme. First, I re-read the book, this time taking notes of whatever I thought could serve as an idea for an image. It was not hard to fill my notebook with quotes from the book as inspiration.
The festival called for works that would be inspired from the book, concerning both our present and future issues. A lot of ideas were crossing my mind, others technology oriented, others inspired by real events in our society. Ηowever, I wanted to create a series of images that would be cohesive and fit my style of photography.
I thought about other books or films that presented a universe similar to that of “1984”. What did they have in common? That’s when I first had the idea to create images that would speak about the issues described in the book, but not literally. I thought about what the main theme of the book was and how that could be represented symbolically. After the main idea had been formed, I started thinking about the setup of each image and ended up with nine different concepts.
Building my own set
At first I thought about shooting each concept in a different location. Somewhere along the way, I came across Eugenio Recuenco‘s amazing “365º” project. He used the same setting for all 365 images in his project: a narrow room with a small window on the left wall. Then, the small lamp above my head lit up and I thought “that is exactly what I should do!”. I found the idea of using the same confined space as a setting for all the pictures very fitting. Then came the million dollar question: where do I find such a space? I wanted to find a rather narrow room with three walls and no windows or doors and I needed natural light to come in that space from somewhere. I looked for places I already knew, but none seemed to fit the criteria. I went looking at abandoned buildings, old appartments, music rehearsal studios, nothing. So, it started to dawn on me that if wanted to get a room exactly how I wanted it, I would have to build it.
So, how does one build a room? Well, the only place I could do it was in my garage, so that gave me an idea of how big the room could be. I remembered that Brooke Shaden had done something similar in her studio, for her project “Fourth Wall”, so I looked that up to get ideas. It seemed like a simple construction, but somewhat over my budget. Then I stumbled upon Sue Bryce‘s DIY V-flats and there it was, the solution to making a simple and cheap backdrop that could easily be transformed into a room. Long story short, I bought pieces of polystern (a material that is used as wall insulation), painted it and screwed it together. And just like that I had my own room to shoot in. I used dirt instead of a floor, to symbolize the connection to the world outside the room. I must confess, I really enjoyed making my own set!
Models, costumes and props
Then it was time to find my models. This project was not about self-portraiture at all. I recruited two friends from theater to help me out. Luckily they were excited to participate. With the help of my friend Kiki, who acted as my assistant in this project, three more people were recruited as “extras” in some of the scenes. This is the first project where so many other people were involved. Usually it’s just me and maybe one model, so this was all new.
Next order of business were props and costumes. Props were not really an issue, most of them I got rather easily, some I ordered online and a few I had to make. The costumes were a whole different story.
I knew I wanted the models to look like they belonged together and at the same time the clothes would have to have their own meaning and scream “oppression”. I decided I wanted some kind of uniform, but using actual uniforms seemed like a cliche. Then I watched the film “Lobster” and that’s where I got the idea to dress them all in suits! Of course I don’t own any suits and nobody I asked had any, but luckily there is a local thrift store that lets you rent clothes very cheap, so I got some of them there. The girls costumes are actually formal police uniforms that I got from a policewoman I know.
Putting it all together
Well, all the pieces were starting to fall into place. All that was left was the actual photoshoots. I scheduled all of the nine photoshoots to take place during three days. It was a bit challenging to get all of our schedules in sync, but we made it work. It was a very tiring process, but in the end the result was rewarding and most of all, I think we all had a great time!
I surely stepped out of my comfort zone for this series. First of all, I didn’t come up with the main idea this time, instead it was given to me by someone else (in this case, the festival). I set up my own studio, where all the pictures were shot, I used five different models, I had an assistant, several props and costumes. I even went for a non-square format and I filmed most of the shooting process to share with you. The most challenging thing however, was that I decided to wait six months to release the pictures at the same time as the festival. I am so happy that time has finally come and that I can finally share the pictures and also the whole process of shooting them with you.
I owe a huge thank you to all the people that helped me turn my inspiration into reality. Without them, none of this would have been possible!
we are the dead
(the pictures are going to be added, as I am releasing them)
There are nine pictures in the series, which showcase the story of how people fight against oppression, to win their freedom back. Each image represents a different stage in this fight, some times successful, sometimes not. In the end freedom is won, but at what cost?
Photography/Set design/Video: Nicki Panou
Photographer’s assistant: Kiriaki Papadopoulou
Costumes: Nicki Panou, Kiriaki Papadopoulou
Models: Stathis Papoulidis, Katerina Ganda, Alexandros Stamatis, Stavros Siagalidis, Christina Papadopoulou
How to build a low budget photography set
we are the dead: speed edit videos
we are the dead: backstage videos
we are the dead: the making of a photography series